‘Pakistan, India must remove fears, mistrust’

Nawaz calls India visit a great moment and a great opportunity

NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who reached India as a good will gesture to attend Narendra Modi's swearing-in as new prime minister, has said that he sees this as a great moment and a great opportunity.

“I intend taking up threads from where Vajpayee and I left off in 1999,” Nawaz said in his first TV interview hours after arriving in New Delhi for the event. Nawaz likened the BJP's election victory to his own win last year and said, “Both governments have a strong mandate. This could help in turning a new page in our relations. This is the same BJP's prime minister Vajpayee for whom I have the greatest of respect.”

Nawaz will meet the new prime minister of India on Tuesday as part of a series of bilateral meetings with all eight world leaders. Indian officials see the meeting, scheduled for around noon, as an ice-breaker but the Pakistani leader described it as a chance to reach out to each other.

“We should remove fears, mistrust and misgivings about each other,” he told NDTV, adding, “Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades.” Modi’s invitation to Nawaz Sharif has been described as a bold move in both countries, but has been sharply criticised by the Shiv Sena, which believes India must not resume cultural or cricketing ties with Pakistan.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said he would attend the swearing in even though it was difficult to trust Pakistan. The BJP's massive mandate - the party seized 282 seats on its own - means that it has room to act without pressure from its allies. Nawaz is among the six South Asian leaders invited to the oath ceremony.

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